|"Head Harbour Shadows" 9x12, oil - available|
One way of managing greens is to avoid them! Although there was a great deal of green in this scene
of the Head Harbour Light house, I chose to minimize their coverage.
Students often cower and retreat before the onslaught, uttering one of two statements. Either "there's too much green out there" or "I just can't find the right green."
Even as an experienced outdoor painter, I have to admit that I, too, sometimes wish for something other than green. But if you want to paint outdoors in the summertime, you may have no alternative than to engage the enemy.
First, let's look at the problem of too much green. Green is supposed to be a restful color - that's why hospital corridors are often painted that color - but in the landscape, too much can be claustrophobic. One trick painters use to mitigate green is to tone the canvas red. The theory is that little bits of red will pop through the overpainting and make for a more vibrant finished piece. I don't find this very helpful, though; green strokes over red vibrate like bad op art and give me a headache. Instead, I like to use a near-complement. If the green is, say, a pure secondary green, I prefer to tone with red-violet or red-orange. The vibration is a lot less but still makes for an exciting painting.
Now, let's look at not being able to mix (or, in pastel, find) the right green. The "right green" that you see in the landscape isn't necessarily the "right green" you want in your painting. Don't try the trick of mixing up a batch of green with your knife and then holding up a sample against what you see in the field; that mixture will look different - and wrong - once you apply it to your canvas and it's in the context of all your other slightly-off mixtures. Instead, consider the mood you are trying to create, and then get the colors in your painting to work well together. Also, you may consider using the concept of simultaneous contrast to get the green you want. Green surrounded by red will seem more intense; surrounded by blue, it will seem tinged with orange and warmer.
I'm ready to confront greens this summer. Are you?